Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has announced that Ecuador has granted asylum to the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, currently in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Updated with full speech by Patiño.
According to El Commercio (Spanish language) Patiño made the announcement in a press conference at the Palacio de Najas in Quito this morning.
The Chancellor has justified the decision on the grounds that Assange's life is endangered due to the WikiLeaks exposure of secret diplomatic cables, which have embarrassed the U.S., and which could expose Assange to the death penalty in that country. In addition, Patiño referred to Assange as a defender of freedom of expression and of the press.
The decision comes despite warnings from the U.K. that they will not grant safe conduct for Assange to leave the country and travel to Ecuador.
The Chancellor further reiterated Ecuador's rejection of the U.K.'s threat to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London to arrest Assange.
In his speech, Patiño also reminded that Ecuador has a rich tradition in the field of asylum with Colombian citizens and defends the right to assist the founder of Wikileaks.
"We want to ratify Ecuador's position on the threat made by United Kingdom against the country vigorously," said Patiño at the beginning of his speech.
Patiño said further that Ecuador has requested meetings with Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Alba, Unasur, and OAS to address this threat to "not leave with such impunity made".
“We think [Assange’s] extradition is viable to a country outside the EU,” Patiño said “If this happens, he will not get a fair trial and his rights won’t be respected. Most probably he will face a military court in the US.”
”Ecuador has confirmed Assange does not have enough protection from Australia where he holds citizenship,” he added.
The U.K. Foreign Office says that it regrets Ecuador's decision, but says it does not affect Britain's legal obligation to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to Sweden.
Following Patiño's statement the U.K. Foreign Office tweeted, "We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act. Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal U.K. authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation."
Interview with Christine Assange:
RT apologizes for a slight glitch in the video.